Home » The Citroën Xantia Activa Was The Family Hatchback That Could Out-Handle A Supercar: Holy Grails

The Citroën Xantia Activa Was The Family Hatchback That Could Out-Handle A Supercar: Holy Grails

Grailcitroen

Whenever a new year is around the corner, automotive publications love to tell you about the cars you can soon legally import into America. We even did one with some Autopian flair. There appears to be one car we all missed, and it’s one that seems to punch well above its weight. The Citroën Xantia Activa looks like your everyday French family car, but thanks to Citroën’s suspension wizardry, this car outhandles supercars even today. And for nearly 24 years it’s held the record as the fastest car to smash the infamous moose test. Today, this Gallic Grocery-Getting Gladiator can be in your cheeseburger-loving hands!

Welcome back to Holy Grails, the Autopian series where we show off some of the coolest, most underrated cars you love. Readers from all over are voicing their opinions on what they think is a holy grail. Some submissions thus far have been just regular cars but in a desirable configuration. Two of you have sent in holy grails that meet the definition even in the strict sense. Those two submissions are for vehicles so rare that no pictures or verifiable information seem to exist about them, which is absolutely incredible. Research is still needed on those two.

Last time, reader PlayswellwithNOthers submitted what appeared to be a controversial pick with other readers. The Audi A6 has long been known for offering buyers a mid-sizer with a variety of body and engine options. Throughout the A6’s generations, you could get yourself a luxury sedan powered with engines like a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6, a 4.2-liter V8, and even a lovely 5.2-liter V10. You could get your A6 as a sedan, a wagon, or the legendary/infamous Allroad.

But the one that PlayswellwithNOthers wants you to consider is the Audi A6 Avant 3.0T. Sold from 2009 to 2011, this was a wagon featuring a supercharged 300 HP V6. It had the performance of a V8 and the fuel economy of a V6. Just 1,066 were sold, making them a rare bird. However, because of the sole transmission choice of automatic and its middling performance compared to the competition, many readers weren’t sold that this was a true grail.

Today’s car isn’t a hot rod. It’s not a supercar or a skunkworks build, either. Instead, it’s a French family car, and one with a trick feature that makes it a marvel even decades later.

71ig6kn9zhl
Citroen

Back in 1954, Citroën introduced a novel suspension system on a version of its Traction Avant. In the Traction Avant 15H (15/6 in the UK), the rear axle effectively rode on Liquide Hydraulique Synthétique, or LHS fluid. This early version of Citroën’s hydropneumatic suspension allowed drivers to level the rear suspension using a lever. The Traction Avant had a belt-driven high-pressure pump for that LHS fluid.

Just a year later, Citroën used what it learned with the Traction Avant and applied it to the novel Citroën DS, one of the most high-tech cars ever made when it was new. The hydropneumatic suspension installed in the DS is still a marvel even today. UK vintage car magazine Classics World explains how the system works:

Details Ds 21 06
Citroen

The heart of the Citroën system is a high-pressure hydraulic pump, driven by belt from the engine like a conventional power steering pump. The pump produces a constant pressure of LHM (liquide hydraulique minérale) fluid and is engaged and disengaged by a solenoid-operated clutch. Hydraulic fluid under pressure is stored in an accumulator sphere from where it can be drawn off as required from a kind of hydraulic ‘ring main’ running round the car.

At the business end, each suspension arm is attached to a pushrod with a sphere on one end and a piston on the other end moving in a cylinder. Fluid can pass from the sphere into the cylinder according to the position of a height control device, while pressurised nitrogen gas in one half of the sphere provides the springing effect. A shock absorber effect is achieved by using a restriction between the cylinder and the sphere.

The clever bit is the height control and it’s very simple: it’s essentially a valve attached to the anti-roll bar, one at the front and one at the rear. As the suspension drops, the valve allows more hydraulic fluid into that end in order to raise the suspension and when it reaches the correct point then the valve closes. Similarly, if the suspension is too high, the valve releases pressure back to the reservoir. A dashboard lever allows the position of the valves to be manually adjusted in order to raise and lower the car.

Early versions of Citroën’s system utilized the aforementioned liquide hydraulique synthétique. However, this fluid had a nasty habit of picking up water and dust, causing rot. Later, Citroën would switch to liquide hydraulique minérale, a green-dyed mineral fluid. When our man Jason tested a DS Break back in 2015, he noted that LHS/LHM isn’t just in the suspension system but is effectively the lifeblood of a DS, and you’ll find it in the clutch, steering, and even the powerful brakes. If you’re interested in a ridiculously-detailed explanation of how this suspension works, the enthusiasts of Citroënët have archived a 29-page brochure from Citroën. That brochure explains that Citroën pursued hydropneumatic suspensions not just as a solution to poor ride comfort on rough roads, but the disadvantages of a typical coil-spring suspension, namely the fact that the vehicle rides high when unloaded.

What does any this have to do with Citroën’s family car from about four decades later? Well, for the Citroën Xantia, the automaker eventually cranked its signature suspension system up to 11.

Screenshot (153)
Citroen

According to Citroënët, the Xantia (pronounced “zan-ti-a”) got its start in 1987 when Citroën began “Projet X,” the search for the replacement for the plastic body Citroën BX. There were three competing projects for the design, one by PSA, one by Citroën, and the last by Bertone. The Bertone design won out and was chosen for production. In spring 1993, the Xantia hit the road, impressing with its gorgeous timeless design. As the UK’s RAC writes, within months, the Xantia was voted “Europe’s Most Beautiful Car.”

Sanip3116042913000 0002
One Projet X sketch – Citroen

That’s all good, but the version that we’re here for is the one that Citroën itself says is the most memorable. Introduced in late 1994, the top of the Xantia line was the Activa. This took what was already a pretty family car and put it on another level. This is the one that reader Peter says is a true holy grail:

I’m a little bit of a Citroen nut (own a BX Gti myself) and a fan of the weird, but very effective hydropneumatic suspension Citroen are famous for. The Xantia was brought out as the replacement for the BX, and, was a fairly normal (by citroen standards) family car, bar the hydropneumatic suspension, and was fairly popular; used to see quite a few about, although they’re getting a bit thin on the ground nowadays (at least in the UK). There were a few different variants of the hydropneumatic suspension fitted to them, ranging from the basic 5-sphere (1 per wheel, plus the accumulator sphere) up to the flagship Activa, which, in my eyes, represents the peak of Citroen’s suspension obsession. The Activa had 10 spheres, including spheres connected to hydraulics on the anti-roll bars, the first active cross-stabiliser system fitted to a road car, and was computer controlled, varying the damping etc. based on the steering, throttle, roll angle etc, locking the roll of the car to ~1°. This left it with road holding that outpaced many supercars of the time, pulling 0.94g on a skidpad in testing, and setting a record speed through the moose test at 53mph (it’s often stated as still holding the record, however there’s a bit of debate there, as I believe the testing procedure has changed, making it harder for more modern cars)

Regarding the rest of the car, the activa suspension was available with a few different engines, topping out with the 188hp 3.0 V6. Outer changes were pretty minimal, with a small spoiler, alloys, and “Activa” badging.

The Activa was never a particularly common version (<2600 V6 models were made), as I think the extremely complicated suspension put people off, and limited parts availability and costly repairs killed off many of those; so there’s only a handful left on the roads these days.

Activaint
Citroen

If anything, Peter is actually underselling just how amazing the Xantia Activa is. As reported by Hagerty UK, when French magazine L’Automobile tested this family car, it pulled more lateral G on the skidpad than supercar legends. A Honda NSX pulled 0.93g while a Ferrari 512TR came in at 0.92g. The Xantia Activa? It recorded a respectable 0.94g. The family hatch was beaten by a Toyota Supra recording 0.95g and a Ferrari F40 hitting 1.01g, but remember, this isn’t even a sports car that we’re talking about here.

Indeed, just as Peter says above, the Xantia Activa took the hydropneumatic suspension concept to the extreme. A highlight of the Xantia Activa’s system was the Systeme Citroën de Contrôle Actif de Roulis, or SC.CAR. This was the active anti-roll bar system that worked to keep body roll to no greater than 0.5 degrees using three ECUs and a set of sensors. When you entered a corner, the SC.CAR first blocked out the suspension spheres, which would normally soften the ride. Then, if the computers determined that roll would increase to greater than 0.5 degrees, fluid was fed into hydraulic rams, adjusting the anti-roll bars and keeping the car level.

Citroen Xantia Activa
Citroen

The Xantia Activa’s magic was that it was supposed to be comfortable on rough roads and in normal driving, just like the Citroëns before it. But with this complex, 10-sphere system, when you push it through a corner it tightens up, giving you greater tire contact patches and better grip. Citroën reportedly advertised a 20 percent improvement in grip with a Xantia Activa.

And to further drill home how good this suspension setup is, we have the infamous moose test. As the name suggests, this test measures how well a vehicle can avoid an obstacle—like an animal—and return to its path of travel. Swedish car magazine Teknikens Värld has been doing these tests since the 1970s, and in doing them rolled a first-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class and got a Jeep Grand Cherokee on two wheels. But the car to complete the magazine’s test the fastest? According to its database, a Citroën Xantia Activa V6 set a record of about 53 mph in 1999, a record that has yet to be beaten.

And it’s not like Teknikens Värld doesn’t test capable cars. The list includes everything from Porsche 911s to the Chevrolet Corvette, various McLarens, and even a Ferrari Testarossa. None of them have completed the test as fast as a Xantia Activa.

Xantia
Citroen

However, I should note that some enthusiasts question the validity of Teknikens Värld’s tests, since the magazine tests by its own standards. A different moose test just last year by a different organization showed a Xantia Activa that couldn’t complete a moose test at 43 mph without knocking down cones. Though, the vehicle in the test was at least two decades old.

Sadly, the suspension and style are really the best parts of the Xantia Activa. Until 1997, the best engine available was a 2.0-liter turbocharged four that made 150 HP and 173 lb-ft torque. In 1997, Citroën released a 2.9-liter V6 as an option. At first, this made 188 HP, but by the time it was discontinued in 2000, it was making 194 HP. But it wasn’t that light, being a 14.5-foot car that weighed 3,198 pounds. This was good for acceleration to 60 mph in about 8 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph. And perhaps crucially, it was available with a manual transmission.

Xantia Activa 2 1024x768
Citroen

Citroën says that it produced 1,528,000 Xantias between 1993 and 2002 (more would be built in Iran until 2010). Of that 1,528,000 lot, just 18,000 were Activas. And of that number, under 2,600 are believed to have the V6. As reported by PistonHeads, the Xantia has actually fallen into obscurity, and if you can find one, it’ll probably be dirt cheap. But finding one may be tough, in that 2014 PistonHeads piece, just 41 of them were operational in the UK, with a further 40 off of the road. It’s not known exactly why there are so few survivors, but Hagerty UK may give a hint when it talks about how the cars weren’t easy to care for two decades ago when parts were thin and knowledgeable help was equally thin. The suspension system may have been close to magic, but someone still had to keep it going.

Rkg7lz4w N7plq3uw6u (edit) (1)
Cars & BIds Seller

As far as America goes, these were never officially imported here, but the earliest Xantias were eligible for importation back in 2018. The earliest Activas were eligible just a year later. I found one that sold here (above) for just $5,200, but it wasn’t an Activa or a V6. The good news is that many Xantias are old enough to import, so if you can find one that runs, you’ll almost certainly have a rare ride.

Do you know of a ‘holy grail’ of a car out there? If so, we want to read about it! Send us an email at tips@theautopian.com and give us a pitch for why you think your favorite car is a “holy grail.”

Relatedbar

Citroën Is Making Another Batch Of Their Goofy $10,000 EV Beach Buggy

The Citroën CX Familiale Holds A Ridiculously Specific Automotive Record

Citroën Teases New Zero-Horsepower Concept With An Obscure Historical Reference Involving Fireflies

Citroën DS Safari Wagon, Ford Cortina GT, Maserati 3500GT: Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit

51 Responses

  1. When I lived in Amsterdam from ’94 – ’96 I first drove a ’74 DS23 Pallas (with the B-W 5 on the tree!) and after that was stolen, a ’68 Mercedes 300 SEL. Hydraulic and air suspensions respectively.

    But this was the new car I wanted.

  2. Interesting car I never heard of and it sounded really good until… “The Activa was never a particularly common version (<2600 V6 models were made), as I think the extremely complicated suspension put people off, and limited parts availability and costly repairs killed off many of those;" Sounds like a headach… Ahh holy grail to me. I'd pass.

  3. I have one. It’s in SoCal, in great condition, and my Xantia has the full Holy Grail package. Blue, LHD, V6, manual. You need to do a feature on it. It’s magic on a back road.

  4. One of the big disappointments of leaving Europe was leaving behind Citroën and most of my hope to ever own one.

    I used to drive a friend’s BX now and then, and loved every minute. They were truly amazing cars. I lusted after the Xantia Activa every time it was mentioned in the press, but had long forgotten its details until today.

    I think this model is the most “Holy Grail” of all the “Holy Grails” presented thus far. Maybe there should be a semiannual poll or head-to-head Grail-off until the one true Grail is identified.

  5. My father’s best friend in Germany was a lifelong Citroën aficionado. My first experience with Citroën was his DS19 fitted with semi-automatic gearbox in the early 1970s, and I vividly remembered seeing the inboard headlamps that swirled left and right with the steering input. He made a huge show out of it along with the shifting the lever to raise or lower his DS.

    Then, he went through a several CX (which he leased every two years). He always ordered CX with diesel then turbo diesel engines. In 1989, I had a chance to drive, albeit brief, his 1989 CX. In 1995, I took his offer to drive his XM. XM was somewhat different from CX, especially the shifting. It took me a while to get it right.

    When Citroën announced the new C6 in 1999, my father’s friend reserved one right away. However, the C6 development dragged on and on to 2005. When the lease on his XM ended in 2001, he was offered either crappy Xsara or equally crappy Xantia (not Activa version) as an interim. Incensed, he ended his French love affair for good and switched to Audi A6, which he continued to trade up for newer one every few years.

    I chanced on seeing a Traction Avant 11B in Munich and took a several photos when the owner came out of the store. He queried about my interest and then offered me a ride! I took his offer right away. Traction Avant was something ultimate experience for me: very quick acceleration (especially for 1953 model with four-cylinder engine) and amazing handling when turning.

    My brother’s high school friend in Plano, Texas went through a several Citroën DS, and I learnt early on NOT to stop by his home whenever he was trying to defuck whatever ailed his DS. Eventually, I muster up the Dutch courage and be his assistant. That turned out to be great learning experience for me. He always had DS with semi-automatic gearbox, and it was hoot to drive one! Of course, it took a lot of practice to work with its bizarre brake pedal. One day, he got a flat tyre and decided against replacing it with a spare tyre: seeing people’s reaction when DS travelled with one wheel missing on the rear passenger side was hilarious.

    My mum decided she wanted a 2CV Charleston so my father bought a 1986 model. I really enjoyed driving 2CV, which was great for driving on snow due to rail-thin tyres that sank deeper for more traction. After my father passed away, my mum sold it and his silver Mercedes-Benz to buy a smaller Volkswagen Polo kitted to the hilt with creature comfort.

  6. Absolutely wonderful and beautiful cars!
    I’ve owned two “regular” 2 litre station wagons, one 16V and one HDi, back when you could always get one for $1000. They were quite fast even without the V6, and a very good secure and sporty ride also, even without the Activa system. Great cars!
    One of my old car friends took his V6 Activa around the US a few years ago (having it shipped from Europe), looked like a wonderful trip.

    My 2023 project is getting my ’67 DS 21 ready for inspection and some summer fun driving.

  7. Man first y’all reintroduce me to the Peugeot 306 and I end up buying one (A GTi-6 and it’s amazing! Well… It was until it threw a rod, give me 2 months and it’ll be even more amazing) now you have me shopping for a different weird French car?? Luckily I couldn’t find a good example for sale in the 20 minutes I spent looking.

  8. I live in the UK and haven’t seen a Xantia for years, let alone an Activa. They always seemed a niche choice, although sales numbers mentioned above of 1.5m shows I’m wrong about that. I think the Activa was a massive jump in price from the next model down.

    The Xantia seemed to be the very last quirky Citroen before the became just another conventional car maker, although the quirkiness does seem to be returning with the Ami.

    1. Likewise; I submitted the suggestion, but I still only half understand the system; I understand the setup on my BX alright (the basic hydropneumatic system is pretty simple really), but I melted my brain a bit trying to get my head around the details of the Activa prior to submitting it to Grails.

  9. This would never sell today. The grill and the wheels are way too small.

    I wonder how some of the modern electro-magnetic suspension systems would stack up to this? It would be interesting to hear from your resident suspension designer on the topic.

    1. The Tesla Model 3 has no grille, and is selling quite well. If a grille is bigger than it needs to be for cooling, then it is only costing the operator more money in added energy consumption.

  10. It’s missing the spaceship-like aesthetics of its predecessors. With modern technology, I think Citroen could do a modern re-imagining of the original DS, and do so with a drag coefficient around 0.12. When you throw convention and aesthetics out the window, these sorts of drag figures open up as a possibility. This would be comparable to a university-built solar car, in terms of Cd value.

    Still, the fact that it beat out a McClaren on the Moose Test was not something I expected to read. Very informative.

  11. Many years ago I owned a Citroen XM, which had a slightly less advanced version of the the Xantia’s Hydractive system. IIRC the XM being an earlier iteration of the system didn’t have the computer controlled anti-roll system.

    I’ve never driven a car that was so arrow straight at high speed that could also bomb over speed humps at better than 40mph without you feeling them. It was amazing. For a big old boat, the XM could really hustle.

    The company I worked for at the time had a Xantia Activa as a company car and I got to have a go in it a few times. Road feel wasn’t exactly a hallmark of either car but the total lack of roll had to be experienced to be believed.

    If you’ve never experienced a galactic cruiser big Citroen spooling up it’s hyperdrives, my friends you haven’t lived.

    1. The XM (and the SM, and the CX, and the DS, and the 15) was such a strikingly beautiful car. My gramps was a lifelong Citroen fan, but unfortunately he never made much money despite working all the time, so he was never able to afford the CX and made do with GSes and a BX.

    2. I’ve actually driven a 2CV and a DS and ridden in a Traction Avant. Never been inside an XM, but would love to. The ones I have experienced definitely make it a challenge to describe them as cars as we know them. Something, something different paradigm. The Avant blew my mind. If it didn’t have the styling cues of the era, it could have been from decades in the future. I don’t think it had this funky suspension, but it still road in a totally different class from the tractor based cars of the time that I have experienced. I’m guessing the unibody chassis made the difference.

    3. Ah, yes. Citroen ( lemon in French) and the hydropneumatic suspension. Magic, while it worked. Had a BX in Spain for 2 years. Great ride and very good handling. But if anything borked the hydraulic pump, you had no suspension, no brakes, and no power steering. Ask me how I know.
      And the XM was the ultimate. There was a guy in New Jersey who bought one brand new and, after a few hundred miles, the hydraulics failed. The dealer tried, but couldn’t fix it. They gave it to the distributor’s techs ( who were French). They couldn’t fix it. They replaced the entire system, rebuilding it totally. That didn’t fix it. Then, they flew 2 engineers from France, who helped design the system. After dismantling practically the entire car, they shrugged gallically, and flew home, defeated. Citroen finally gave the guy another XM, and flew the remains of the cursed one back home.
      True story. Told to me by a Peugeot dealer friend who was offered the distributorship for America and refused it.

      1. I think this story needs a big asterisk. Citroen never imported the XM here but CXA (CX Automotive best known for importing the XM’s predecessor, the CX) brought in a few examples before ditching all efforts. They legally federalized it which also meant purchasing a XM was about the same as a Mercedes S class of that period. There was scant little knowledge of how these cars actually functioned, never mind a proper dealer network with Citroen know-how and expertise. The engineers may have been French, but did that make them qualified to diagnose and fix this guy’s XM? I just don’t think it’s fair to criticize a car that had such little support stateside when it was new.

        My own experience with Citroen hydraulics has been quite positive, having owned a XM, CX, and currently, a SM. IF they are maintained properly the system is reliable and can provide years and miles of trouble free operation. But so often, they are not maintained properly and are worked on by people that have no business working on cars of this complexity. Take one look inside the wheel liner of a SM and you will understand these are not just cars; they are spaceships on wheels.

        So, yes it is true that you lose brakes, steering and suspension with a little bit of warning if something in the hydraulics catastrophically fails. It’s also impossible to ignore the huge, center mounted “STOP!” idiot light in the cluster… and again, if you’re maintaining one properly, experiencing catastrophic failure is not likely, although nothing is a given on a car that is now 50 years old!

        It takes courage to be bold and completely rethink how a car drove in order to advance automotive engineering. We can be thankful that Citroen, unlike so many other car companies that were content with the status quo, had both in spades.

        1. * Sorry for my error in confusing the XM with the SM. So, in this case the cars were imported by Citroen, not any aftermarket company. The car was essentially new when the guy bought it, and didn’t need any maintenance yet. In any case, all service and repairs were attempted by the factory authorized Citroen techs and engineers who actually designed and built the system.
          Not David Tracy.

          1. Citroen never imported any XMs. The last car they imported was the SM. CXA was an independent importer that spent $$$ federalizing the CX and the XM, so I would be very surprised if Citroen themselves handled any of the support, but perhaps CXA had connections that made this possible?

            1. Yes, exactly. The SM was the last Citroen they imported into this country. It was one of those that failed it’s buyer, and confounded the Citroen techs and engineers. CXA had nothing to do with this. And, because Citroen could not find anyone to become it’s American distributor ( after offering it to my friend and his father).

        2. Interesting tidbit about CxAuto’s federalisation of XM: CxAuto used the headlamps from Pontiac Grand Prix (sixth generation, 1988-1996) to replace the European version. They sort of fit with the plastic fillers but not as neatly.

          https://www.citroen-forum.nl/forums/viewthread/233151

          PS: To clarify the nomenclature, CxAuto is name of registered importer that federalised the CX and XM, and CXA is replacement name for CX and XM due to the trademark.

      2. “Magic, while it worked. Had a BX in Spain for 2 years. Great ride and very good handling. But if anything borked the hydraulic pump, you had no suspension, no brakes, and no power steering. Ask me how I know.”

        Now imagine that same scenario, but with an even more complex suspension. This is probably why so few of these Xantias remain on the road!

      3. How did someone buy a new Citroen XM in New Jersey? The hydropneumatic system sounds more complicated than it actually is. The Xantia added computers, but in the cars before that had it, there was really only so much that could go wrong.

        1. A federalized version of the Citroen XM was grey-imported to the US for a brief period, I believe by a company in NJ.
          That story would probably make an interesting article too.

            1. My dad had a born rich friend in the seventies who used up his smallish fortune on opening a high-end stereo boutique (in a town of 300,000 in egalitarian Sweden: market close to zero) and owning a brand new SM.

      4. Citroën is not lemon in French.

        Although similar, lemon would be citron. And whilst only an “e” is missing, the end sound is very different. Notice the umlaut on the “e”, one of French’s many accents, yet not the most common one. That “e” is therefore present in pronunciation and Mr. Citroën’s name ends with the -enn sound.

        Citron (lemon) on the other hand has the very Fenech phoneme of “on” , as in bonbon (candy) in which the “n” is not present phonetically per se, but part of the o+n sound (ah-hon-hon-HON !)

    4. My dad was a huge Citroen fan, and after he passed I inherited his 2 Citroen BXs (plus another “parts car” and a basement full of parts). For a few years a BX diesel was my workhorse (I had a fleet of Alfas, but none were very practical, and half of them were “projects”). I went up and down mountains on snow, mud, sand, rocks, pulled 4x4s out of ditches and mud pits, hauled construction materials in the back – hundreds of kilos at a time, never broke down, never got stranded. The hydraulic suspension combined with the very light weight (fiberglass hood & hatch, very simple mechanicals – the suspension was in fact simpler than regular McPherson struts, with fewer parts) enabled it to go to places where my friends with off-road rigs wouldn’t dare (or would get stuck when trying to follow).

      1. As I said, pure magic while it worked. I had the misfortune to have my hydropneumatic suspension fail IN THE MIDDLE OF MAKING A THREE-POINT TURN. So, suspension resting on the jounce bumpers, sitting an inch off the ground, no brakes, and no power steering boost. Fun.

        1. The key to all the Citroen hydraulics reliability is, as always, MAINTENANCE.

          All you have to do (even when buying a used second-hand one) is carefully check all the hydraulic lines, and replace them as needed. It’s the same as you’d do with brake lines, but here you’re dealing with 2-3 times the total length of lines compared to other cars’ brake circuits. Also if one of these springs a leak, because of the high system pressure you will lose all the LHM in seconds, and because it runs everything you will be left with no brakes (there is no ‘brake pump’, just a diverter valve from the main circuit under the brake pedal), no suspension (car lowered all the way down, with zero damping) and no power steering (also hell to steer because of the change in geometry with the lowered car).

          Apart from rotten hydraulic lines, the most common way people end up with ‘broken’ cars is replacing the LHM oil with whatever hydraulic oil they (or their ‘specialist’ mechanic) feel is ‘the same’ when they see how expensive LHM is.

          1. If you are looking at a DS with “Citromatic” (semi-automatic) transmission, a hydraulic system failure will also leave its owner shiftless. As mine once did. I believe it renders the starter unusable as well.

            It has been a lot of years since that happened. I have tried to block it from my mind.

            Also: Mercedes, if I remember accurately, the early hydraulic Cits used brake fluid in their systems. That may be a U.S. requirement at the time, but I know mine did. I really wanted an LHM car, which I was told was less problematic, but this particular DS was cheap and available. Despite its issues, it was a wonderful car. I still miss it.

          2. In my personal experience, the suspension is down on the bump stops a long time before the brakes fail. I had a Citroen GS on which the low pressure line for the fluid return burst a leak. This obviously resulted in the loss of pressure.

            Actually, I had a similar problem twice. In one case, it sprayed the hydraulic fluid on the inboard front disks.

Leave a Reply